Friday, January 29, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Paying It Forward ala Tera

Happy Friday! We're back with another installment in our series about paying it forward with a question we posed to all the Fivers:

What is your favorite way to pay it forward to other people?

Here's what Tera had to say:

Do you remember that commercial, where one person does something nice for a stranger, then we zoom back in time and see that a stranger did something nice for that person, and we keep going back along the chain of good deeds, seeing why everyone is paying it forward? Well, I learned that lesson long before I saw that commercial.

Right after college I worked in the box office of the Colorado Shakespeare festival. I was having a miserable time at work because my boss was my recently-former friend, and the situation was pretty tense. Sometimes I worked the front counter, dealing face-to-face with people, and I always put a smile on my face. It was customer service, after all. But most of the time, I was in the back, fielding phone calls about ticket purchases, changes, exchanges, and complaints. Since I wasn't dealing with the customers face-to-face, I usually didn't bother with a smile. I was miserable and didn't feel like making the effort. Besides, it seemed like half the customers were angry and rude anyway.

Then, one day, I decided to stop letting my former friend apparently get the better of me. The phone rang and I smiled as if I meant it (I didn't, actually, but I made the muscles of my face pull into a smile). And the strangest thing happened ... the customer on the other end of the phone was very friendly. I tried my fake smile again for the next phone, with the same positive result. For the rest of the summer, I made myself smile every time I answered the phone, and wouldn't you know it? I didn't have any more miserable customers.

I learned my lesson. Even if people can't see you, even if you're only faking it, they can hear the smile in your voice. (I swear, it's true.) And even if they're calling because of a problem, they respond positively to your positive response. Now, whenever I'm next up at the post office or calling in to tech support, I make sure to put a smile in my voice, because if I can share a little bit of positive, then maybe they'll share a little bit with their next customer. It's the butterfly effect ... and it all begins with a smile.